We don’t think about it often enough but there is lead in our environment in Texas, and in the homes we live in.
How dangerous is lead? What does lead do?
Lead poisoning causes lower IQ and other learning and behavior problems in children. The effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children can be severe. Effects include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems. Fetuses, infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure than adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies, and the tissues of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Children may have higher exposures since they are more likely to get lead dust on their hands and then put their fingers or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths.
Lead affects full grown adults also. And an indifference to lead on your part as a mature adult can impact the children who come through your home- the grand kids.
Lead affects practically all systems within the body. At high levels it can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lower levels of lead can adversely affect the brain, central nervous system, blood cells, and kidneys.
So lets look at how lead can be a part of or get into our homes.
Old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today.
Do you have an older home?
Do you enjoy antiques around the house?
Do you enjoy finding and buying old and odd stuff from flea markets?
Lets assess where you might have an issue with lead paint in your house.
The age of your home can be critical. Most homes built before 1960 contain heavily leaded paint. Some homes built as recently as 1978 may also contain lead paint. This paint could be on window frames, walls, the outside of homes, or other surfaces.
Harmful exposures to lead can be created when lead-based paint is improperly removed from surfaces by scraping, sanding, or burning in an open fire.
Lead was also a key ingredient in rust preventive paints for metal.
Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition – do not sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.
Lead paint in good condition is usually not a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust (for example, opening a window).
Working with old furniture- distressed furniture in all kinds of creative ways can lead to lead exposure.
Hobbyists working with lead can be exposed. High concentrations of airborne lead particles in homes can also result from lead dust from outdoor sources, including contaminated soil tracked inside, and use of lead in certain indoor activities such as soldering and stained-glass making.
Anyone working with lead or with old stuff which might have lead as a component of paint must learn safe procedures to minimize the danger to themselves and to other family members as that lead migrates into the shared home environment.
Think broadly when you appraise sources of lead.
We concentrate on home issues on this web site, but lead sources can go well beyond this scope. Toys from overseas. Old toys shared. Cups and dishes that have circulated in from other countries. Pottery and cups from unknown origins. Cosmetics sourced out of the country.
I leave it to you to protect yourself and your young children. Be suspicious. Be vigilant. Be aware of what children put in their mouth and chew on. That toy that you had as a kid? Know your sources.
More Do’s and Don’ts with Lead.
Do stop and think if you start, striping, sanding, refinishing paint around the house. This is the entry point for problems with lead if you have lead based paint and finishes around.
Do you worry that you have lead issues? You can get help. Consult your state health or housing department for suggestions on which private laboratories or public agencies may be able to help test your home for lead in paint.
Do not try and abate lead paint yourself. Do not remove lead paint yourself.
Home test kits cannot detect small amounts of lead under some conditions. Hire a person with special training for correcting lead paint problems to remove lead-based paint. Occupants, especially children and pregnant women, should leave the building until all work is finished and clean-up is done.
Individuals have been poisoned by scraping or sanding lead paint because these activities generate large amounts of lead dust.
Beware bringing lead dust into the home
If you work in construction, demolition, painting, work with batteries, or work in a radiator repair shop or lead factory, or your hobby involves lead; you may unknowingly bring lead into your home on your hands or clothes. Zip codes all over north Texas are on the Census list for lead. This map is provided by VOX. Just add your zip and get detailed results. It can be quite localized.
You may also be tracking in lead from soil around your home. Soil very close to homes may be contaminated from lead paint on the outside of the building.
Soil by roads and highways may be contaminated from years of exhaust fumes from cars and trucks that used leaded gas. Use door mats to wipe your feet before entering the home. If you work with lead in your job or a hobby, change your clothes before you go home and wash these clothes separately.
Encourage your children to play in sand and grassy areas instead of dirt which sticks to fingers and toys. Try to keep your children from eating dirt, and make sure they wash their hands when they come inside.
Be careful with what you are trying to refinish.
Do you love antiques and old things? Do you or are you intending to refurbish, refinish, renew antiques and old things? Well, make sure you are not disturbing lead paints. Make sure you have the facilities and the protections and the systems in place for dealing with lead in finishes. HAVE A PLAN
Lead is an environmental risk in North Texas outside the home- in the environment and in our workplaces. A threat existing of bringing the lead home to the family.
The state of Texas has a comprehensive procedure for surveying for lead in children and by so doing- their parents, and you need to check it out.
It downloads as a pdf from the following URL – http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/lead/screening.shtm
A simple test from drawn blood can be tested for lead content. There are guidelines and thresholds for amount of lead, and a variety of treatments are available.